Smallholder representative explains what’s wrong with development finance

12 Aug 2016

Zwide Jere is the Managing Director of Total LandCare, an organization working with smallholder farmers in Southern and Eastern Africa. He participated as keynote speaker at Global Landscapes Forum: The Investment Case 2016 in London.

Transcript of Zwide Jere’s short intervention on development finance effectiveness:

We need to provide access to finance, but also we need to provide access to markets.

Just to emphasize the importance of markets:

We had a program once outside Luwongo [Zambia] – a very good program in terms of introducing locals to irrigation systems…and this farmer has moved from producing 20 drumheads [cabbage] in a season to 3,000 – one farmer!

And so when we took visitors there to say “We want to show you a success story”, one of the visitors asked the farmer: “How do you look at this new technology?” And the farmer said “This technology is very bad.” And we got so embarrassed, we said: “Wait a minute”

[and the farmer said] “It is very bad…why? Because I used to produce 20 drumheads. I could take ten on my pushbike and sell it at the local market and eat the rest and share with my neighbors. Now I am stuck with 3,000 drumheads, what do I do with this?”

So we said: “Yeah, we think the farmer has a point: We need to address the market phase before we start talking about production.”

And if that was not enough, after three months, this farmer has now started making money, but they are not paying back the loans. So we said “What is the problem? Let’s invite both husband and wife to the meeting”

And then we introduced the topic. We said: “You see, they are not paying. We only have two months left and we are going to get the pump or the equipment from you because that was used as a collateral.”

And the women stood up and said “No, this is not true. Our husbands have been telling us that they have paid off.” We said “No, it’s [only] 50%”. And the women said “No, no, no. This is unacceptable, because these husbands have been cheating us.”

They were embarrassing their husbands. And the husbands were just looking down to say “Oh. Wait a minute…what is happening?”

So, we have also realized in our program that it is very important to deal with women as well as to deal with the youth.

I think the women are very powerful. When I was in a meeting with UNWOMEN in Malawi, I raised this point and she [the UNWOMEN representative] said “No, Zwide, you are cheating us – women are marginalized”

And I said “No, I’m a married person, I know how powerful women are. My wife would not talk in public, but when we are at home, she’s in control.”

So let’s really think about women as we are talking about investing in forest products as well as investing in agro-based enterprises. Thank you very much.